Whose gifts anyway?

Let’s talk about gifts, spiritual gifts that is, and the ownership thereof…

Scripture makes it clear that all gifts are from the Lord and that activities using those gifts within the body of believers are appointments from the Lord (1 Cor 12:27-29). As a Calvinist, for whom Tulip is not just the name of a flower, I believe that there is no coincidental placement within the body of believers.

Where it gets interesting is how the use of ‘gifts’ is applied to believers within congregations, and the differentiation (or not) between secular vocational skills and ‘gifts’. Many church bodies, having a determined mandate centered pragmatically on church operation and growth, tend to view the vocational skills or talents of congregants as their gifts, to be utilized in add of the church. Very convenient, a little too convenient me thinks. This seems particularly prevalent within the church growth movement for obvious reasons.

Vocational skills and secular success may have little or nothing to do with an individual’s real spiritual gifts or calling. They can at times be at odds with it. At best, the appropriate application of the gifts may be only tangential to their secular application, related in that they happen use the same base talent set.

What that means in practice is that demonstrated competence in a secular area (though at times it may seguay into church service) is NOT an appropriate starting point for guiding a congregant to their productive and best ‘calling’ in the body of Christ. This is the exact opposite the approach most often taken and is made worse by the use of conventional talent or gift questionnaires.

Sadly, use of the obvious and too convenient secular skills is all to often the area of church work that a congregant is pressured into because of local need. That local need has nothing to do with that person’s true calling, and to the degree that this is true represents an abuse of that person’s placement in that body. It may be well intentioned in the larger sense, but it is nonetheless inexcusable.

Where am I going here? Well, the ‘church’ has to learn that a person will only find the place to which they have been ‘called’ when encourage to explore what the calling is, not to fill a need in that particular organization.

We must guard against asking people to fill a need, other than in an emergency and then only very temporarily, unless they feel called to it, irregardless of the convenience of their skills.

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